If winter is here…

Delhi’s winters used to be chilly*, with icy weather in the peak season of mid December to mid January. But over the past few years, the winter season has become shorter and shorter – no thanks to global warming. This year was a huge disappointment. The New Year was exceptionally warm with many people giving woollens a pass.

The harvest festivals (Lohri/Makar Sankranti/Pongal etc), which usually fall on the 13th-15th of January every year, mark the end of winter and the beginning of Spring. Even as we prepared to celebrate, the lack of a proper winter was a bit sad.

Perhaps the thick air carried our dejection, and precisely one day prior to the ‘official’ beginning of spring, winter finally showed up in full swing. The cold wave has been here for well over two weeks now, and seems in no mood to leave in a hurry!

Meanwhile, the bougainvillea plant in our balcony seems to follow a different calendar altogether. Even as the other plants geared up to brace the winter chill, this plant began flowering for the first time in our home last autumn. Throughout the season, there hasn’t been a single day without a shade of pink amid the grey haze and fog.

On a lazy Sunday morning, I peep out from under the rajaai**. The curtains are only half drawn – there’s no need for them. The fog and frosted glass guarantee privacy. And the sun hasn’t been showing up for work for a few days. I coerce myself to get up, if only to wish my friend. I walk up to the balcony door. It’s all white and grey. A few plants are struggling to keep warm. Most of their leaves have dried and fallen. But one thorny plant stands there defiantly. I step out gingerly and wish her a good morning.

She wishes me in her own way. It’s cold for both of us and she doesn’t mind me going back inside. As I turn around, she smiles knowingly.

If winter is here, can spring be far behind?

Hope ‘springs’ eternal – even at 5 degrees C!

* No, we don’t have snowfall or blizzards but day time temperatures of 7 degrees C are quite ‘normal’

** a thick blanket, usually stuffed with cotton

For more optimistic pictures, gather around the cozy fireplace of The Daily Post.


Bread on my Butter

Its January, and its cold. The sun hasn’t shown up for work in a long time. The fog is intense, and it is hard to see anything beyond fifty feet. With great effort, I leave the comfort of my blanket.

I keep water on the stove. My fingers go numb, as I wash a piece of ginger. I quickly pound it, and toss it into the water. I let my hands soften over the warm air on top of the stove. It feels familiar. As I wait for my tea to boil, I remember the tea I used to buy from the road-side chai-wallah.

He sat on a foot path behind a prominent building. Arguably, the most popular chai-wallah. I used to enjoy the tea he made, and was a regular customer. His helpers would recognize me, and even before I would reach, a cup of tea would be ordered on my behalf!

Tea wasn’t the only thing he had in store. Cream rolls, plain salted rolls, mathris and buns were stacked up all around him. I generally had my tea with mathri.

Once, while I was waiting for my tea, I saw one of the helpers prepare a simple snack for a customer. Before I knew it, the helper sliced the fruit bun, applied butter, toasted it on open flame, cut it in four parts, and served it hot. I watched with delight as the bun developed a life of its own – the skin burnt, just the right amount, the melted butter making it glow… On a chilly winter day, it was enough to make my mouth water. I made a mental note of it, and a few days later, I decided to buy one for myself.

More than the taste, I looked forward to the butter melting. I didn’t have to wait long. The helper reached out for the big box where blocks of butter had been stored. Each block must have been two inches thick. He picked one up, and promptly applied the whole block!

I was shocked. I forgot all about the open fire, and the glowing bun.

It took me a while to regain my composure. And for a little while I just stared wide-eyed at my meal.

Eventually, I did sink my teeth into it. It tasted wonderful, of course. It had to be! Though beyond that… I’d rather not think about it!

For the next few months, I was quite content with just tea!